You can’t win ’em all

Friday 13th should never be considered as a day for photography, but it was a day off and a chance to get out somewhere.  Plans were loosely made, and fell apart straight away when the duvet proved heavier than planned. Scratch a trip to Ironbridge Gorge then, and justify that by saying the weather probably wouldn’t be quite right anyway – too much cloud cover.  What next? Hmmm. Haven’t shot any aircraft for a while, and have been meaning to head to Birmingham Airport and try and get some “interesting” shots from the Elmdon side of the runway, where a chance exists to shoot the aircraft landing or departing with some background.

This was a chance to try out some new tricks. I have had an Eye-Fi card for some time, and have recently started testing it in anger – I’ll be blogging the results of my experiments with that soon. Using that I planned to try and edit some of the pics “real-time” on the iPhone and post them online. Also sitting in the drawer for some time has been my 1.7x teleconverter, so I chucked that in the bag too to try and get some close-up shots.

GZBAF A321 Monarch at Birmingham

Heat haze blights this shot of a Monarch A321 about to touch down on 33 at Birmingham.

The site I’d scouted out on Google Earth was a multi-storey car park near the old tower, which while it was easy to get too and had quite good views over the airfield was behind two hangars and needed to be two stories higher to give me an unrestricted view of the runway. Is there a better spot on that side of the airfield? I don’t know, I couldn’t find one and it’s a shame because the sun was behind me and it had some serious potential. If anyone knows of anywhere better – away from lightposts, antennae and building work please comment on here…it would have been perfect for Runway 33 touchdowns were it not for those pesky hangars!

Despite the visibility restrictions there was still plenty of opportunity to catch aircraft in the last seconds of the flight – you just had to time it right to avoid the clutter. The sunlight being behind didn’t turn out to be a benefit though as the sky had gone all milky and meh, while the temperatures continued to rise to the mid 20s. That high temperature brought with it the one thing it is impossible to edit out – heat haze. I suspect that the haze was rising off the buildings around and beneath my vantage point but an image I know was in focus and should on a normal day have been sharp turned out like the shot above of the Monarch A321. The heat haze is visible over much of the photo, and while you expect to see it form the engines the fuselage should be sharp and smooth – as should be the power lines above the aircraft. Rats.

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An unusual visitor to Birmingham and one I got a good shot of luckily!

There is one other factor which may have caused the image to be unsharp and that is the teleconverter. I’ve owned this for a year and very rarely used it, so haven’t got much to compare it with. It takes my 70-200mm up to a 340mm maximum zoom, and reduces the aperture to f/4.8 from f/2.8. Reviews say a teleconverter can cause loss of sharpness but looking back through some old images I took at 340mm I can’t see this much difference. I don’t think I will be blaming the teleconverter, but my choice of day to travel. Early morning or late evening would have yielded better results I’m sure.

It wasn’t all a failure though, I got a few good shots such as the French Air Force A340, and a small detour to East Midlands on the way home yielded some more opportunities for the future. Click on either picture to view the gallery of rogues from my day. Many of the shots from both Birmingham and East Mids were more interesting that my Myrtle Avenue shots at Heathrow which generally are nice aircraft in the sky but with no background interest like the terminals or the runway. I like to try and be creative with my aviation shots, capturing the touchdown maybe or a close-up shot – but hitherto I’ve been mostly unsuccessful. It’s all about the location and I still haven’t quite found the right spot at airports with big interesting heavy metal. I’ll keep looking.


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